Muldoon Hearthkeeper picked mushfruit with a smooth rhythm, reaching above his head and plucking the puckered orbs as they swung from the branches in the warm breeze. The exercise calmed him, distracting him from worrying speculation, as the woven-grass basket at his feet slowly filled with fruit.
He heard Clifthurm Windchaser long before he could have seen him, as the heavy-set poet blundered through the close-growing trunks of the mushfruit thicket toward him. Muldoon sighed, closed his eyes momentarily, and searched for the calm at the centre of things.
“How goes your harvest for the gods, Hearthkeeper?”
“It goes well enough, Windchaser,” said Muldoon, gesturing to the nearly full basket. “We shall be short on mushfruit for the solstice, however.”
“What matters the solstice, if the gods are already here?” blustered Clifthurm. “I have been working on my finest elegy to the three moons in preparation for tonight’s feast to honour them. Perhaps you’d be interested to -”
“Oh, not now,” replied Muldoon, smiling inside. “I’d rather wait until the feast. To get the full impact, you see. And I would not presume to receive the fruits of your labours before the newly-descended gods have their chance.”
Clifthurm narrowed his eyes. “I know you, Hearthkeeper. I know your scepticism of old. You don’t believe that they are really gods at all, do you?”
“I don’t know what I believe, Windchaser. But I don’t know that they are truly gods, and I don’t know that they are truly not.”
“But they descended from the heavens! On a spear of slow flame, as it is written in the prophesies, no less! Their strength and speed shame our mightiest warriors and our fleetest hunters. Their skin is smooth, and they are crowned with hair like the bodies of beasts! What are they, if not the gods, eh?”
“As I say; I do not know what they are. In the absence of knowledge, I shall behave as if they are gods.”
“You don’t believe, do you,” said Clifthurm. “So why then do you act as if you did, thinking blasphemy all the while? Why then do you harvest fruit for them to eat?”
“Because like any father, I fear for the consequences of a misjudgement. Though I wonder why it is the gods cannot find food for themselves. Why they brought none with them. Why they need to eat at all, for that matter.”
“But surely if they are not gods, you have nothing to fear from them, Hearthkeeper,” scoffed Clifthurm.
“On the contrary, friend poet,” replied Muldoon. “If they are not gods, we have much more to fear. And I hope to be wrong. But if I am right, it matters little whether I harvest for them or not.”
He turned back to the tree, and reached for a fruit that nearly eclipsed the afternoon sun. “And so I harvest; that is what a farmer does, for gods or otherwise. This is my poetry, Windchaser. Do not seek to demean the solace it brings me.”
After a few moments, Windchaser the poet could be heard blundering away through the trees, muttering to himself, and Muldoon was left alone with his thoughts once more.
[I seem to be developing an unplanned obsession with religion as a theme. Not very sure about this one, to be honest, and had more time been available I think I’d have come up with a better ending. Selah.]